It’s been 39 years and 316 days since East Fife played, and won, a Scottish league game at Ibrox.
October 13th 1973.
The Simon Park Orchestra were number one in the charts with “Eye Level”, the theme tune to the TV show “Van Der Valk”, Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon” was still drawing the crowds in at the local picturehouse, and kids were riding around on Raleigh Choppers laughing at the big hair and hideous clothes.
Amidst all that, Jim Hamilton was writing a name for himself in Bayview folklore, with a goal that should give hope and inspiration to the current crop of players proudly wearing the black and gold.
October 13th 1973 was to be the 16th and final time that East Fife would visit Ibrox on league duty until this coming Saturday’s game. The Fife’s record there made dismal reading – Played 15, Won 0, Lost 12, Drawn 3, Goals For 7, Goals Against 47.
It’s incredible really when you consider what a powerhouse East Fife were as a team themselves in the late 40s and early 50’s.
East Fife were managerless. Pat Quinn had been sacked 20 days earlier and although a new manager had been found in former player, and League Cup winning goalscorer, Frank Christie, he wasn’t taking over until the home game against Morton the following week.
The omens weren’t good for East Fife and former legendary player and current kitman Jimmy Philp, and groundsman Alex Doig were in charge of the team in the dugout.
This was to be their third and final game in charge of the team, having recorded a win against Dundee and a loss to Dumbarton. No-one expected them to pull off a miracle at Ibrox but they and the players rose to the occasion.
Jim Hamilton in particular rose well, especially in the 7th minute when he was left unmarked in the box and headed home a Johnny Love cross for what was to be the only goal of the game!
East Fife held their own for the rest of the first half and had several chances to add to their advantage.
Hamilton nearly grabbed his second, but Rangers keeper Stewart Kennedy got his hand to his shot and sent it crashing off the bar. Kevin Hegarty then headed over from under the bar before pulling a shot wide from a good position towards the end of the half.
Rangers pushed for the equaliser from the moment the second half kicked off but found East Fife goalie Ernie McGarr in top form.
McGarr and Bobby Duncan combined to keep out a John Greig shot and then Alex O’Hara saw his shot headed off the line by Davie Clarke.
Those were close calls, but there was closer yet to come when Derek Johnstone crashed a shot off the crossbar.
With five minutes left, Rangers thought they had snatched a point when Johnstone headed home, but the Rangers striker turned centrehalf was flagged for offside and East Fife breathed a sigh of relief.
The final whistle came and East Fife held on for a famous victory.
Both teams’ reserve sides were playing at Bayview that afternoon, with the Gers running out 1-0 winners. So momentous was the victory that the closing moments of the game at Ibrox were played over the tannoy for those in attendance to be a part of the occasion!
New manager Christie was undertaking his last game at St Johnstone as trainer-coach and was sitting on the bench following the East Fife game through updates from fans listening in the crowd.
“A big roar went up from the crowd who had tuned in to the commentary from Ibrox and it was then I learned East Fife were leading Rangers,” he said. “It was a wonderful result for us.”
The line up for both teams on the day were:
RANGERS: Stewart Kennedy, Sandy Jardine, Willie Mathieson, John Greig, Derek Johnstone, Alex MacDonald, Tommy McLean, Tom Forsyth, Alistair Scott (Graham Fyfe), Alex O’Hara, Doug Houston [Sub Not Used: Dave Smith]
EAST FIFE: Ernie McGarr, Bobby Duncan, Davie Clarke, Ron McIvor, John Martis, Walter Borthwick, Jim Hamilton, Johnny Love, Kevin Hegarty (Graham Honeyman 70), Billy McPhee, Grahame Ritchie (Derek O’Connor 72)
The referee was R.D. Henderson and the attendance was around 12,000.
A great game and I wish there were highlights somewhere for us all to see. We’ll just have to play the highlights of this Saturday’s victory on repeat instead.
‘Mon the Fife.